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Is A ‘Squeaky Clean’ Face Too Clean?

Investigating the narrow space between super clean and skin damage

Let us ask you a question: how do you know if your face wash is really working?

Do you judge its effectiveness by its ability to foam? By that super dry and almost tight feeling you get after using it? Do you judge by its smell, or do you take a seat and read its long list of ingredients?

Most people would choose the first three options – and that’s exactly what the beauty industry expects.Most companies that make cleansers, shampoos, and other personal hygiene products include ingredients to enhance foaming and strip oils from your face and hair. They don’t do it because it’s better for your hair and skin. They do it because they know that a foamy soap and a completely oil-free face make their consumers feel cleaner.

We want to spread the word that foamy face wash and dry, tight skin do not necessarily equal a clean or healthy face. Instead, try out the 3 certified organic face wash cleansers we recommend down below – and learn what truly makes a cleanser good for your skin.

What We Mean By “Squeaky Clean”

Knowledge is power, even in the land of organic face washes. As we’ve established, when we say, “squeaky clean,” we are referring to that feeling that dry, rubbery feeling some face washes give your skin.

Unfortunately, this feeling is often achieved by the use of harsh chemicals and surfactants. What’s a surfactant, you ask?

A surfactant is an ingredient in a cleanser that draws dirt and oil away from the skin. Surfactants may also work as emulsifiers, wetting agents, detergents, insecticides, fungicides, foaming, and viscosity. There are many types of surfactants and, as you can see, many purposes.

You can separate harsh surfactants from safe, natural surfactants one way, and one way only: through research. Don’t worry – we’ll make the process easy for finding the best organic face wash without the harsh chemicals.

Ingredients to Avoid

Let’s begin with the harsh chemicals that may be making you feel clean, but are more likely to be damaging your skin.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

This is one of the most common ingredients in shampoo and face cleansers because it is highly effective at creating a rich foam, removing dirt, and lifting oil from your skin. It’s also one of the most commonly avoided by makers of organic face wash.

The problem with SLS is that while it gives you that “squeaky clean” feeling, it also removes natural oils that your skin needs to protect itself. In an effort to reapply its protective layer, your body begins over-producing oil, leaving you in a vicious cycle of too dry to too oily skin. Not to mention it’s been linked to cancer and heart disease…


Isopropyl alcohol, SD alcohol 40, and ethyl alcohol. If they’re on the bottle you just picked up, put it back.

While alcohol is an effective sterilizing agent and degreaser, it can be extremely hard on sensitive skin. It’s often added to face wash to help other ingredients such as vitamins A, E, or C, and salicylic acid, enter your skin more easily. Unfortunately, alcohol breaks down the top layer of your skin. Is the damage worth the extra vitamins? Organic face wash brands think not.

Synthetic Fragrances

While not a surfactant, who doesn’t feel cleaner when they smell fresh? But if you’re reaching for that “Pomegranate Whisper” scented face wash, just give us a minute to explain.

Organic face washes use natural scents from essential oils. On the other hand, synthetic fragrances are typically a mix of between 20 and 80 different chemicals. To make matters worse, the FDA does not currently regulate exactly which chemicals these fragrances include.

Synthetic fragrances tend to be harsh and – surprise, surprise – help to dry out your skin (we’re starting to see a pattern here). More than that, they aren’t doing anything productive aside from adding to the squeaky clean feeling.

Skip the illusion. Let’s talk about natural surfactants you should look for in organic face wash.

Natural Alternatives Found In Organic Face Wash

Soap Berries, Soapwort, and More Plant-Based Surfactants

The most dedicated organic face wash brands use these natural plant-based surfactants because they require zero processing. True to their name, Soap Berries and Soapwort are gentle completely natural surfactants that are, well, soap-like. They don’t foam as well as their processed counterparts listed below, but they are the most natural used in organic face washes. You can also look for liquid yucca extract and shikakai powder for safe, natural surfactants.

The Glucosides

We’re talking about coco glucoside, decyl glucoside, and lauryl glucoside. All three are mild cleansers that have been minimally processed. They are sugar-based alternatives to the above mentioned harsh chemicals and provide gentle foaming action and adds viscosity. All three are completely biodegradable.

Coco Betaine and Sodium Coco Sulfate

You may find either of these surfactants in organic face wash products. That’s because they are both coconut derived, meaning they lather while keeping your skin hydrated. You may also find these surfactants in non-soap products which are a life-saver for those of us with sensitive skin.

Our Top 3 Recommended Certified Organic Face Washes

100% PURE Fermented Rice Water Organic Face Wash

Guaranteed pure, Naturally pigmented, Paraben-free, Cruelty-free, Vegan

With a coconut oil and milk base, 100% PURE touts its organic face wash as a toxin free alternative to those with harsh chemicals. In the absence of a surfactant, this face wash is smooth and silky as opposed to foamy and harsh. Scented with vanilla bean extract, 100% PURE recommends this as a gentle daily face cleanser.

Goddess Garden Purifying Cruelty-Free Paraben-Free Organic Face Wash

Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free, Vegan, Paraben-free, Reef-safe, Philanthropic Mission

Goddess Garden’s Purifying Organic Face Wash uses gentle kaolin clay to lift impurities such as dirt and makeup off the skin. With SPF 30, oat protein, and witch hazel, this cleanser can be used to protect your skin from the harsh effects of daytime sun exposure. Scented with essential oils.

Avalon Organics Intense Defense Cleanser

Vegan, Cruelty-free, Certified organic, Non-GMO, Paraben-free

Avalon Organics’ face wash is a gentle gel that lathers instead of foams. Completely plant-based, Intense Defense Cleanser contains two natural sources of vitamin C for effective absorption unaided by alcohol, which dries and weakens skin. This formula contains no synthetic colors, fragrances, phthalates, or sulfates.

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